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Heat wave stifles Europe

A man cools off on the sandbank on Danube river in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, July 11, 2017. The spate of extreme weather sent the temperatures soaring toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and brought warm winds to some areas. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia – No wonder it’s been dubbed “Lucifer.”

A relentless heat wave that gripped parts of Europe this week has sent temperatures soaring to record highs for several days, causing at least two deaths and prompting authorities to issue severe weather warnings.

“It is just too much,” real estate agent Sasa Jovanovic, 52, said during an early morning walk in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, where the temperature was forecast to hit 39 degrees Celsius Saturday. “Sometimes it feels as if I cannot breathe.”

The extreme heat stifling Serbia, Romania, Croatia, and parts of Spain, France, and Italy has fueled wildfires, damaged crops, and strained energy and water supplies. Authorities in some areas issued traffic restrictions and banned outdoor work during the hottest part of the day.

Spain’s national weather service on Saturday issued an emergency warning for high temperatures in 31 of the country’s 50 provinces as forecasts predicted temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius.

Western and northern Europe, in contrast, was experiencing colder and wetter weather.

Although southern Europe is used to scorching summers, meteorologists have warned that hot spells lasting several days aren’t that common.

The public health institute in Belgrade issued heat instructions, telling people to keep wet towels on windows if there is no air conditioning, and avoid physical strain and alcohol.

Thousands of residents sought refuge from the heat at the city’s recreation area, swimming in the local lake and the Danube or the Sava Rivers. Some of those who ventured to the city center dipped their feet or wet their hair in the fountains. (AP)